Clean drinking water: a privilege and an obligation

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Picture of By Julia Abelsohn

By Julia Abelsohn

Clean fresh drinking water, readily available to all Canadians just makes sense and would seem like a no-brainer in 2019. But as recently as World Water day in March 2019, when we celebrated this life-giving resource, many communities still suffer without access to clean, safe drinking water, including right here in our own backyard. Water is a human right, but many people living in First Nations’ communities go without the clean, safe water they need to live.

We may think that water is just part of our national heritage and it’s easy for us to assume that we have an almost endless supply of clean, fresh water. After all, we’re often told that Canada has some 20% of the world’s total freshwater resources. However, less than half of this water — about 7% of the global supply — is “renewable“. Most of it is fossil water retained in lakes, underground aquifers, and glaciers.

What is a renewable resource?

We may be a little complacent when it comes to water because we may consider it to be an inexhaustible resource as the total supply of water in the biosphere is not affected by human activities. Water is not destroyed by human uses, however for it to be useful, water must be in a particular place and of a certain quality, and so it must be regarded as a renewable, and often scarce, resource, with cycling times that depend on its location and use.

For Canada’s 30 million people, about half a percent of the world’s population, this is still a generous endowment. But, more than half of this water drains northward into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. As a result, it is unavailable to the 85% of the Canadian population who live along the country’s southern border. That means the remaining supply, while still abundant, is heavily used and often overly stressed.

What can I do?

The Council of Canadians, the Blue Planet Project and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) initiated the Blue Communities Project in 2009. Eau Secours is a partner on the Blue Communities Project in Quebec.

The Blue Communities Project encourages municipalities and Indigenous communities to support the idea of a water commons framework, recognizing that water is a shared resource for all, by passing resolutions that:

  1. Recognize water and sanitation as human rights.
  2. Ban or phase out the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.
  3. Promote publicly financed, owned, and operated water and wastewater services.

The Blue Communities movement has grown internationally with Paris, France, Bern, Switzerland and other municipalities around the world going “blue”. Schools, religious communities and faith-based groups have also adopted principles that treat water as a common good that is shared by everyone and is the responsibility of all.

Help make your community a “Blue Community”

You can also call on the federal government to end drinking water advisories in the First Nations and take further action to improve this situation once and for all.Contact your federal government:

Bottled water – another challenge

Another area of genuine concern is the bottled water industry and how they are expropriating our valuable water resources. Many parts of southern Ontario and British Columbia have faced drought conditions in recent years yet Nestlé, a giant bottled water corporation, continues to pump millions of litres of water from watersheds in Wellington County, Ontario and Hope, British Columbia.

Add your voice to the work the Council of Canadians is doing with communities and environmental groups to challenge Nestlé’s outrageous bottled water grabs. Opponents to this bottled water company claim Nestlé is profiting from water and reducing our ability to ensure our water is protected for generations to come. Nestlé’s permit to draw water in Aberfoyle Ontario expired in July 2016. Since then they have drawn 1,840, 572, 830 litres and sold it at enormous profit. If you’d like to join the campaign against this bottle water industry you can help here:

Who’s profiting from the bottled water industry?

Nestlé pays $2.25 to bottle and sell a million litres of BC Water. Ontario charges companies just $3.71 for every million litres of water, after they pay a permit fee of $750 for low- or medium-risk water takings, or $3,000 for those considered a high risk to cause an adverse environmental impact. So estimating how much Nestle earns on bottled water yearly is mind-boggling.

Bottled water and climate change

Our anxiety about climate change seems to ramp up daily as we see record-breaking natural disasters. This year alone we’ve seen Hurricane Michael wreak havoc in the Florida Panhandle, the Indonesian Hurricane and Tsunami impact nearly 2 million people, forest fires in California devastate homes and BC fires darken skies for weeks in the western provinces. Even Venice, which has seen its fair share of flooding, has seen the worst weather conditions and flooding in over a decade. We feel helpless as scientists and politicians struggle to find the best course of action. But what can we do to help?

One simple thing that everyone can do is to stop drinking bottled water. Period. Not only are plastic water bottles major polluters on their own (more on that later), but also do you know what it takes to make a bottle of water? Here are a few facts:

  • It takes three times the amount of water in a bottle of water to make it as it does to fill it.
  • Plastic water bottles are made from a petroleum product called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which requires giant amounts of fossil fuelsto make and transport.
  • The production of bottled water uses 17 million barrels of oil a year. That’s slightly more than it would take to fill one million cars a yearwith fuel.
  • It takes almost 2,000 timesthe energy to manufacture a bottle of water than it does to produce tap water.
  • If you fill a plastic water bottle so it is about 25% full, that’s about how much oil it took to make the bottle.
  • The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes

After we drink it

And what happens to that bottle of water after we drink it? Eighty per cent of plastic water bottles that we use end up in landfill. Landfills around the world are bursting at the seams with thousands of tons of plastic water bottles. It takes up to 1,000 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose and each bottle leaks harmful chemicals into our environment along the way as it decomposes. Studies show that the toxins decomposing bottles of water leach into our environment cause a variety of health issues, including reproductive problems and cancer.

How bad is the problem?

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean. There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. Recently scientists found nearly 18 tons of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.

Bottled water myths

Most of us drink bottled water because we think it’s purer than tap water. Clever advertising has fooled us into believing that drinking bottled water is healthier and better for us than tap water. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 1999, after a four-year review of the bottled-water industry and its safety standards, studies concluded that there is no assurance that bottled water is cleaner or safer than tap. In fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not. And there are other dangers in bottled water not found in tap water. Chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. One study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and in glass bottles containing phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could be coming from the plastic cap or liner.

Low carbon footprint solution

Some bottled water manufactures even claim that we will be smarter for drinking it but given all of these facts you have to see the irony of that statement. Drinking clean, filtered tap water is a much safer and more economical solution that leaves a low carbon footprint. A filtration system like the UltraStream delivers cleaner water than any commercially produced bottled water. It uses no electronics and is easy to install. It filters out pesticides, chloramines and chlorine, heavy metals and fluoride while infusing the water with molecular hydrogen and adds a sea of essential minerals to every glass. Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle to drink purified water on the go and never be caught short again.

Contact Best Water at: or call and speak to one of our water specialists for more information on the best products for your needs at: 1-877-771-1942



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Julia Abelsohn

Julia Abelsohn is a writer, editor and clinical aromatherapist. She has been sharing her expertise and passion for health and wellness for over 25 years. When not at her desk she can be found exploring the many trails and green spaces near her home in Edmonton, Alberta.

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